Scandal. Calumny. Turpitude. Backstabbing. Disgrace. Ya, I know, I’ve never heard of calumny either and I thought turpitude was how you describe the liquid after you wash your paint brushes.
These are words some would use to describe the current state of affairs at Toronto’s mayor office. Some people with a thesaurus, that is.
You may think the Office of the Mayor in the City of Toronto has had a clean slate when it comes to negative headlines over the years, up until now that is. You may think Rob Ford is the first among our great municipal leaders when it comes to dishonour, aspersion, and gossip.
You are sadly mistaken my fellow Torontonian (and when I say ‘fellow Torontonian’ I mean to say I was born in Hamilton and have never lived within the Toronto city limits and I snicker only slightly at the thought that, of all the things Toronto uses to disparage my home town, I can proudly say my home town civic leaders have never uttered the words, “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” or even “Will this big green bow tie clash with my regular size green tie?”)
Many mayors of this great city of Toronto have been upstanding proponents of municipal responsibility and will be long remembered for their proper citizenship, like the last mayor, David, um, uh, Whatshisname. But others still have had their fair share of indiscretion.
Here, then, shall I enlighten; in no particular order, unless you proceed to read them in the order I present to you, of course.
Gender Bender – Mayor Sammie Von Rimstead – 1863
During the period between 1859 and 1864, three Toronto mayors were elected by the public. The second mayor to have been elected by the citizens and not by city council was Sammie Von Rimstead, who was later removed from office when it was revealed Sammie was short for Samantha and not Samuel. Von Rimstead has since been posthumously honoured as the ‘first female Mayor of Toronto’.
Historical legacy: Following the removal, Von Rimstead changed her name to Renée and began playing professional tennis.
The House Divided – Mayor Jay Ayr – 1841-1843
Prior to becoming mayor, Jay Ayr was a filthy-rich oil tycoon from Texas who was seldom seen without his trademark cowboy hat and wide, toothy grin. Ayr brought prosperity to Toronto in a time of tight fiscal policies and was a very popular mayor until he was shockingly gunned down and spent the rest of his term in a hospital bed.
Toronto Telegraph newspaper headlines at the time asked “Whom Fired Upon Jay Ayr?” and gave a lenghty account of the proceedings:
Day 3: Bobby and Pam departs City Hall in the morning after Bobby informs Miss Ellie and Jock of the Council debate. The Council is displeased. Sue Ellen and Jay Ayr enter at the end of the debate in time to remind Jay Ayr that he has driven them away. This pleases Jay Ayr and he reminds her that his is going to put her away for speaking ill of him. McSweeny serves Sheppard with a warrant for her arrest on charges of prostitution in front of Beem who was visiting her. He offers them a deal. If they leave town within 24 hours, he won’t chase them. She threatens to kill Jay Ayr. Jay Ayr calls Dr. Rodgers to take Sue Ellen away that night. Jay Ayr hangs up on Leland who is continuing to threaten him. Sue Ellen continues to ponder the gun and tucks it in her purse before heading out somewhere. Jay Ayr is at the office at night when Rodgers arrives at Southfork to cart Sue Ellen away. He steps into the outer office to pour himself a drink. He hears someone outside his door and soon after he investigates, we hear two gunshots to the gut.
Historical legacy: After the “Whom Fired Upon Jay Ayr?” episode, cowboy hats, boots, spurs, and even chewin’ t’backy were banned from council chambers. Guns were still allowed since many believed Jay Ayr deserved it.
I Ain’t Lyon – William Lyon Mackenzie – 1834
Mackenzie’s claim to fame is twofold. First, he was Toronto‘s first mayor and the grandfather of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and great-great-great grandfather of pianist William Lyon Mackenzie King John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.
Secondly, because he was constantly photographed on the street by people passing by in carriages, he declared in council that all images of him were “…to be distinctly altered by proprietors of local photo shops so as to blurify the features of my face beyond recognition.” The practice is followed to this day, as shown below.
Historical legacy: Mayors are now required to use only two names and to have them as short as possible, which means registered candidate Al Gore is a shoe-in to win.
The Lastman Standing – Mel Lastman – 1998-2003
Calling in the Canadian Army in January of 1999 to help shovel snow following a huge snowstorm, Lastman was ridiculed as a Bad Boy for his use of city resources. Lastman was vindicated years later for his deployment of the Army when he revealed the snowstorm created “excellent packing snow” and was used by troops to defend against a U.S. military attack via a tunnel under Lake Ontario from Rochester, N.Y., to Union Station.
When asked how many people knew of the Americans’ plan to invade he winked, held one hand up in an ‘OK’ sign and replied “Noooooooooo……” Yeah, you know what he said.
Historical legacy: Thanks to Mel, mayors are afraid to call for help following weather-related disasters, which meant the 2013 Ice Storm was cleaned up using the help of Brownies and Cub Scouts.
Picture This – Joshua George Beard – 1854-1855
Born Joshua George, this Toronto mayor was required to add his most famous facial characteristic to his name after people began to spontaneously point and blurt out “Beard!” whenever greeting him.
Out of a sign of respect, the next two mayors continued the tradition of adding personal appearance attributes as their last names but the practice stopped following the tenures of Leonard Adams Psoriasis and John Francis Combover.
Historical legacy: None. See his Wikipedia entry here.
The Gravy Train – Rob Ford – 2010-present
To be continued….